It is startling how many pseudosciences exist today. In almost every major discipline, there are pseudoscientific beliefs. I wish I could say that I completely reject hypnosis as a pseudoscience, but I am still on the fence. In one article exploring the validity of its research, a professor asserts: “It has taken centuries for medical hypnosis to regain credibility,” says Penn State psychology professor William Ray. “In the 1950s, reliable measures of hypnotizability were developed, which allowed this research field to gain validity. We’ve seen more than 12,000 articles on hypnosis published since then in medical and psychological journals. Today, there’s general agreement that hypnosis can be an important part of treatment for some conditions, including phobias, addictions and chronic pain.” Even a contributor to the attached article in the same passage contradicts the pseudoscience attribution by saying:
- It should be noted that using hypnosis for relaxation, mood control, and other related benefits (often related to meditation) is regarded as part of standard medical treatment rather than alternative medicine, particularly for patients subjected to difficult physical emotional stress in chemotherapy.
The American Psychological Association has numerous references to hypnosis and appears to support hypnosis as real. Included on the website: Handbook of Clinical Hypnosis, Second Edition
In this second edition of the landmark Handbook of Clinical Hypnosis, the editors have undertaken a significant revision and update to their classic text, first published over ten years ago.
Book/Monograph (February 2010).
Here, it is stated that there are some valid studies supporting appropriate clinical uses of hypnosis. The author/contributor to the Wikipedia article seems to acknowledge the distinction of hypnosis being supported by valid scientific studies when used clinically for some uses (use of reducing pain, relaxation, focus) as being distinct from the other uses of hypnosis to retrieve “repressed memories” and “past lives” and some others. This distinction is described more explicitly by including even more pseudoscientific claims, stating that “Despite increasing recognition by the medical establishment, popular myths about hypnosis persist, such as the belief that it is a truth serum, that it causes subjects to lose all free will, and that hypnotists can erase their clients’ memories of their sessions.”
However, despite a list of prestigious universities, like Stanford University and Penn State, that support the validity of hypnosis as a valid tool, other skeptical reviewers of scientific research supports the questionable validity of hypnosis research.
In the Skeptic’s Dictionary, an author writes: “While it is true that some hypnotherapists can help some people lose weight, quit smoking, or overcome their fear of flying, it is also true that cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) can do the same without any mumbo-jumbo about trance states or brain waves. There have been many scientific studies on the effectiveness of CBT, including studies on weight loss. Finding high quality scientific evidence for hypnotherapy, however, poses a major problem. As R. Barker Bausell says: hypnosis and the placebo effect are “so heavily reliant upon the effects of suggestion and belief that it would be hard to imagine how a credible placebo control could ever be devised for a hypnotism study” (2007: 268). Even if you could devise a hypnosis study that isolated the role of suggestion and belief, how would you do “fake” hypnosis?”
The author does provide some support for the validity of hypnosis by looking at specific correlations: “Scientific studies have found out a few things about hypnosis. We know that there is a significant correlation between being able to be absorbed in imaginative activity and being responsive to hypnosis.* We know that those who are fantasy-prone are also likely to make excellent hypnotic subjects. We know that vivid imagery enhances suggestibility. We know that those who think hypnosis is rubbish can’t be hypnotized. We know that hypnotic subjects are not turned into zombies and are not controlled by their hypnotists. We know that hypnosis does not enhance the accuracy of memory in any special way. We know that a person under hypnosis is very suggestible and that memory is easily “filled-in” by the imagination and by suggestions made under hypnosis. We know that confabulation is quite common while under hypnosis and that many states do not allow testimony that has been induced by hypnosis because it is intrinsically unreliable. We know the greatest predictor of hypnotic responsiveness is what a person believes about hypnosis.”
So, as of yet, it is clear that hypnosis continues to be controversial. It doesn’t help that prestigious universities are connected with research supporting the validity of hypnosis and measures of hypnotic suggestibility, but the writer in the Skeptic’s Dictionary makes a powerful point:
“To those who say “what difference does it make why something works, as long as it works” I reply that it is likely that there is something that works even better and might even be cheaper or more effective. While many hypnotherapists may be generally reliable, help many clients with some of life’s minor problems, and are unlikely to take on cases beyond their expertise, many are going to be quacks. Depending on where they are practicing, their education and training might be minimal and dangerous. People with serious physical or mental issues might seek out one of these quacks for a serious disorder that could be relieved or cured by scientific medicine or therapy. Furthermore:
“Patients can become dependent on nonscientific practitioners who employ placebo therapies. Such patients may be led to believe they’re suffering from imagined “reactive” hypoglycemia, nonexistent allergies and yeast infections, dental filling amalgam “toxicity,” or that they’re under the power of qi or extraterrestrials. (The Mysterious Placebo by John E. Dodes, Skeptical Inquirer, Jan/Feb 1997).”
“In other words, placebo therapies can be an open door to quackery.” http://skepdic.com/hypnosis.html.
Further research into this is needed.
via List of topics characterized as pseudoscience – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.